Full disclosure – we live in a fairly solidly upper middle class part of the Atlanta suburbs. There are definitely people in need our community, but they are less visible than they might be in other parts of the area or country.
One of the boys I coached this fall has been a tough case. He’s frequently been absent from practices or matches, and has been late to several practices. He doesn’t have the best attention span. This is also the first time he’s been on a sports team or played soccer, so there’s been a lot he’s had to learn. He can also take a standpoint of blaming others, or claiming someone is cheating when the game doesn’t go his way.
But throughout the season, I’ve sensed he is definitely trying in practice – and he makes a good effort in games as well. He just needs some extra help in understanding the instructions and staying on task.
I don’t know him away from the field, and I don’t know his parents away from brief interactions with them before and after team functions. But I felt like getting to play, and being included in a group really meant something to him.
I get the sense in our area that a lot of families have their kids in sports because it’s just what people do. They put their kids in sports because they want them to be good at sports for the social position it affords the child and the parents. But for a part of the population in the US, and more so in underdeveloped parts of the world – sports are their release from reality for a short period of time.
At our team party, the player’s mother told me that the season has been great for him and it’s been significant to see her son have something that he enjoys.
I’ve struggled with the question of, “Why do I coach?” throughout this season and last spring with the older kids team. And this conversation was the most compelling reason I’ve received so far.
I’m really hoping my efforts over the winter to initiate pick-up soccer games in our county draws in families and kids from beyond just the mainstream of our county and into the immigrant communities that aren’t visible in our soccer club or the county’s sports programs. It could be a significant bridge to these kids.